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Letters regarding Georgia convict labor

Letters regarding Georgia convict labor

Descriptive Summary

Title: Letters regarding Georgia convict labor
Creator: Park, Robert Emory, -1909
Creator: Robertson, J. L.
Inclusive Dates: 1897, 1901
Language(s): English
Extent: 1 folder(s) 2 letters
Collection Number: ms4007
Repository: Hargrett Library

Collection Description

Historical Note

In an effort to resolve certain issues, officials during Reconstruction (1867-76) approved the leasing of prisoners to private citizens. Within five years, convict leasing was a major source of revenue for the state. Over a span of eighteen months in 1872 and 1873, the hiring out of prison labor brought Georgia more than $35,000. With this success, the state legislature passed a law in 1876 that endorsed the leasing of the state's prisoners to one or more companies for at least twenty years. Three companies took on these convicts at the price of $500,000 to be paid at intervals over the twenty-year span of the lease.

Convict leasing became less profitable during the first decade of the twentieth century as a rising tide of progressivism, culminating with the election of Governor Hoke Smith, swept across the state. Progressives, influenced by the media exposure of convict leasing's inhumane conditions, pushed through legislation in 1908 outlawing the previous hitconvict lease system. This wave of anti-convict leasing was coupled with a depression in 1907, which made enlisting prisoner labor less economically feasible for companies.

In an 1894 report for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Road Inquiry, O. H. Sheffield, a civil engineer from the University of Georgia, endorsed the utilization of convict labor on state roads. However, because almost all of the state's 2,000 felons were leased to private companies, only misdemeanants could be used in road construction. In 1903 the state legislature gave counties the opportunity to use felons who were serving less than five-year sentences for roadwork projects --- New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016 September 1.

Scope and Content

This collection contains two letters regarding the use of convicts for labor. One letter describes a prisoner, Floyd Clements, working out his sentence in the household for J.L. Roberston. The other letter is a petition from Robert E. Park to the Georgia State Legislature making the case for using convicts to dig canals to drain the swamps of Southern Georgia in order to create farm land.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Letters regarding Georgia convicts, ms4007, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Related Materials and Subjects

Subject Terms

Convict labor -- Georgia.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

11Letters, 1897, 1901